SAN JOSE -- The early precinct polls from tester vendors are now in on the battle between double data rate (DDR) SDRAMs and Direct Rambus memories. The clear winner so far is DDR, according to test suppliers showing their wears at the Semicon West Trade show here this week.
A check by SBN of high-speed memory test equipment suppliers at the trade conference shows early sales ramping up for DDR systems. Glenn Farris, Teradyne Inc.'s high-speed memory marketing manager, said 80% of soaring orders for the firm's Aeries high-performance memory tester are being used for DDR. Officials with Advantest America Inc. agreed that DDR is spurring new tester sales.
At the same time only Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. -- the predominate Direct RDRAM producer for PCs -- is reported to be ordering testers for the new packet data memory format. "Other memory companies are in a wait-and-see mode before placing additional orders for Rambus testers," summed up Teradyne's Farris.
Agreeing is Tom Pritchett, Agilent Technologies Inc.'s group marketing manager for automatic test equipment. "High-speed Rambus systems haven't taken off as we had hoped," he said.
Agilent, the spin-off company from Hewlett-Packard Co., is developing a variant of its high speed line for DDR synchronous DRAMs. Pritchett said he believes high-speed DDR memories cannot be adequately tested simply by ratcheting up conventional SDRAM models, but will require very high speed testers to cope with noise, interference and timing issues.
Test gear makers still expect demand to take off for memories based on the format from Rambus Inc.--especially when Intel Corp. later this year introduces its next-generation Willamette processor, which will require Direct RDRAMs.
Graham Siddall, president and chief executive officer of Credence Systems Corp., is banking on Rambus chip cost reductions to spur orders for new testers. Credence has so much confidence in the Rambus tester potential that it has signed a letter of intent to make a 20% equity investment in a small RDRAM test firm, called New Millennium Solutions Inc., in Irving, Calif.
Tester firms are counting on their Rambus projections to materialize, after making large investments themselves in developing the complex high-speed testers and boost throughput to 32 to 64 simultaneous test sites. In the meantime, vendors here said they are finding other uses for the high-speed testers developed for Rambus, while they wait on that market to develop.
Gary Fleeman, memory marketing manager for Advantest America, said the new generation of very fast SRAMs are creating a market for the 1-GHz tester, while Rambus customers are holding back.
Credence's Siddall said his firm will apply Rambus interface testing technology from its pending investment in New Millennium Solutions to enhancing its line of ASIC systems. "The ASIC tests needed for Rambus are applicable in our high performance logic testers," said the CEO of Credence.